Having a mental illness can make a full life more difficult to achieve than it is for healthy individuals. So far I had only been puttering with life. Nothing I did was serious enough or fulfilling enough. I wanted to do something truly meaningful.

For many years I scoured the Help Wanted pages of the newspaper on a daily basis, hoping to find work I’d be able to do. I wanted to be a responsible member of society. But the two or three times I had part time office jobs, I couldn’t keep them for longer than two months. The tasks were simple enough, yet they overwhelmed me. The stress was too great. I ended up in tears.

But I did find something extremely fulfilling—something I ended up dedicating the rest of my life to. I could see that I didn’t need to be rich or famous to have a meaningful life.

In the mid 1990’s Dr. John Varsamis, M.D. alerted me to a great need. He wrote, “Mental illness is so common that if even a small proportion of the patients made a special effort to learn as much as they could about their illness, and if they proceeded to educate their families and friends, there would not be too many uninformed people left and the stigma associated with mental illness would be virtually eradicated.”*

The stigma angered me. Through no fault of their own, individuals were living with shame simply because they had an illness. They were made to feel inferior to “normal” people. Unworthy. Confidence and self-esteem suffered. I was determined to find ways to help.

Dr. Varsamis’s words inspired me. If it were possible to make a difference, I wanted get onboard and help make that happen. Little did I realize how much the rest of my life would be consumed by this work. From then on I worked tirelessly, glad to have found something so meaningful to do.

Until recently I didn’t think I was affected too much by stigma. I never internalized it. Never felt a need to be ashamed. And so, when I decided I wanted to help reduce stigma, it wasn’t hard to be honest about my illness. The benefit of being honest was the freedom it brought. I had nothing to hide. My life became an open book. Not everyone would be keen about doing that, however this was how I could best serve God.

In church I heard the following words from the pulpit: “…You may have had a painful life with experiences you wish you could forget. But if you give your life to God, no matter how bad—if you surrender your pains to him—God can make good come out of bad.”



*Society for Depression & Manic Depression of Manitoba Newsletter, April 1990